Everyone’s daily life will, at some point or another, involve the choice of choosing how to get from one place to another. Very often the reoccurrence of this daily choice leads to assumed trends and eventually a way of life. For example, when I moved to the UK I had to walk or take the metro to get to school or necessary amenities. After some time I found that my preference had become to walk to all my destinations if possible, so it truly became a way of life.
What about other lifestyles in other countries? Being from America I can say that a lot of people’s lifestyles according to how they travel from one place to another involves a car. This is due to sprawling cities, lack of public transportation, and the walkability of places. I understand there is distance between places and it’s easier to take a car; some people may not have access to public transportation; or the public realm isn’t suited for walking, but what about the bike?
I just returned from a trip to the Netherlands and after visiting the three cities of Groningen, Utrecht, and Amsterdam I could make an obvious conclusion that there is a lifestyle based around the bike. The bike is how people travel. It’s not even a necessity because many places are within walking distance, but it’s the transportation of choice. Bike lanes existed on almost every street and if they didn’t, the bikers surely dominated the narrow roads squeezing themselves between buildings, cars, and canals.
Train stations had two-storey and underground bike parking, but yet bikes still overflowed onto the street with locks attaching them to various permanent structures. I spoke with one Dutch man to inquire about his bike and he said it was the ‘bad one,’ because he actually had five bikes. In the Netherlands biking is a lifestyle, a trend, a hobby, and lastly a way for getting to different places. It was quite astonishing to see people of all ages using bikes for almost anything. There were even bike wagons people could rent for hauling large items, or for the college student to move from one house to another.
For the past 30-40 years the Netherlands have made it their priority to implement better biking transportation policies. This may include more bike lanes, bike parking, or paths that bypass traffic lights making it more efficient to bike. I feel there is more to it than just policy planning. Is it the geography that makes the city so bikable? The layout and bike paths? The social aspect? Or just an individual’s preference? There are many factors involved when considering how the Netherlands became so bike-friendly and how the Dutch made it their lifestyle. Maybe we should make it our goal to discover just how this type of transportation rooted itself so deeply and developed into a phenomenon where the majority of people arrive by bike. It seems to be a healthy lifestyle and when done correctly an efficient way to travel. Let’s see how this trend can spread.